The aerospace industry newspaper Space News is reporting that Russian officials and even Chinese social media users are mocking President Trump’s back to the moon initiative. The Russians note that the United States is dependent on not only rides on the Soyuz to access the international space station but Russian built rocket engines, the R-180, for the Atlas 5. The Russians are playing with fire out of a flagrant ignorance of history and of American political culture. Both of those situations being cited by the Russians are due to change in the next few years, with devastating results to that country’s aerospace sector.

Russia is also dependent on the United States

Thanks to a series of unfortunate decisions by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, Americans have to pay an immense amount of money to pay for rides on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to go to and from the International Space Station. Moreover, the Atlas 5 uses the Russian R-180 engine. However, the commercial crew program is due to replace the Soyuz with American made and operated spacecraft at the latest in 2019 or 2020. Blue Origin has been working on a replacement for the R-180, the BE-4, since 2014.

When both initiatives reach fruition, Russia will have lost a couple of valuable sources of revenue.

History has not been kind to Russian boasting on space

The Russian officials mocking the American back to the moon program were likely not alive when Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface. The Apollo moon landing program was started by President John F. Kennedy in part as a response to Russian triumphs in space, such as Sputnik and the first flight of Yuri Gagarin, which rendered American technological power in doubt.

Then too, the current president, Donald Trump, was elected in part out of American outrage over being taken advantage of by foreigners. If Trump gets it into his head that he is being mocked by Putin’s cronies over his back to the moon proposal, an angry Tweet will be the least of his actions. The next humans to land on the moon will be a tangible expression of American soft power, just as Apollo 11 was.

Russian boasting devolved into embarrassed silence.

Russian mocking in inexplicable

The open mocking of American lunar efforts is puzzling for another reason. Russia’s RSC Energia wants to form a partnership with the United States to build the Deep Space Gateway, a human-tended space station to be deployed in cis-lunar space that is part of NASA’s lunar strategy. The partnership between the United States and Russia that built the International Space Station has been mostly successful. However, if Russia continues to be a problem, the United States will turn to other partners with a better attitude, leaving Moscow out in the cold.

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